Holding my Breath


What does it take to find the ocean’s most impressive animals and capture their behavior on camera? How does one even know where to look for them in the big blue?
Join 4-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and marine biologist Rick Rosenthal behind the scenes filming whales, dolphins, giant tunas, billfishes and manta rays, and discover his secrets for “getting the shot”.

For decades, Rick has filmed in the ocean waters out of sight of land, in waters thousands of meters deep – the open ocean. It’s a world that feels like deep space, where hours and days can pass with no signs of life in the sea or sky. Then, in minutes, the seas explode into life with a massive shoal of baitfish swirling just below the surface, attacked by dolphins and tunas torpedoing through, while seabirds dive-bomb from above. Without warning, out of the deep, a whale sweeps through the middle of the panicked shoal – its massive mouth swallowing thousands of the baitfish in a single mouthful.

Capturing such intense moments of action in the open ocean requires experience, patience and often, holding one’s breath. Most open ocean animals perceive scuba divers’ bubbles as a threat and disappear when approached. To get close enough to film some of its most charismatic inhabitants, Rick and his open ocean camera-team often forgo their scuba tanks. Instead, they hold their breath – sometimes for minutes on end.

To film a giant marlin, known as a grander for his PBS documentary, SUPERFISH, Rick teamed up with one of Australia’s top sport-fishing captains. After persuading the captain that they actually wanted only to film the fish, not catch it, Rick and his crew spent days at sea, eventually finding what they were after. But would one the ocean’s fastest predators stay close to their boat long enough for Rick and second cameraman Malcolm to slide into the water and film? How do you hold the attention of a 400 kilo black marlin?

In HOLDING MY BREATH, we explore these and other back-stories of some of the most memorable natural history moments captured on camera by Rick and his team, most of which involved not breathing.